Immigrant, former deputies reunite to talk, heal after beating at city market

Officers fired after attack apologize for incident

March 07, 2003|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

In an unlikely reunion, the two Baltimore sheriff's deputies fired for an incident in Lexington Market in which a Hispanic man was mistaken for a bank robber and brutalized, met with the victim over sandwiches and sodas yesterday.

The first thing they did was hug. All three felt like victims.

"I put myself in your shoes, and I feel your actual pain," said Anthony Spence, who believes he was unfairly fired from the Sheriff's Department.

Through an interpreter, Spence and Clyde Boatwright apologized to Rolando Sanchez, who speaks little English, for the incident in September. They told him that although they were fired, they did not rough up Sanchez that afternoon, and they were not the ones wielding stun guns.

"The worst part of it was the electricity," said Sanchez, 26, referring to the multiple jolts from a stun gun on the back of his neck.

Sanchez, a Salvadoran construction worker who has not been able to work since the incident, accepted the ex-deputies' apologies, and the three men prayed together. The meeting took place in the downtown office of Sanchez's lawyer, J. Stephen Simms.

"I am happy you are apologizing, and I accept," Sanchez said. "I want to know why only the two of you were fired."

Simms said neither he nor Sanchez wanted the deputies to lose their jobs.

"There seem to be problems in the Sheriff's Department," Simms said. "Firing these two men doesn't seem to solve those problems."

Spence and Boatwright said the Sheriff's Department didn't tell them why they were fired last month after the five-month investigation.

Toby Goodwin, spokesman for the department, said he could not discuss personnel issues.

According to a sheriff's report, the deputy who used the stun gun on Sanchez, Massimiliano Poma, was suspended for one day. The four-year veteran shot Sanchez at least twice in the back of the neck with the weapon, according to a sheriff's report. When Sanchez learned this, he seemed confused.

Spence and Boatwright said they believed Poma was given a light sanction because he is a friend of Sheriff John Anderson.

Anderson could not be reached for comment, but his lawyer, Frank D. Boston III, said that wasn't the case.

"The sheriff takes exception to any innuendo that his disciplinary actions were based on favoritism," Boston said. "The dispositions were based on facts."

The incident occurred Sept. 18, when Sanchez went to Lexington Market for lunch just before noon.

About the same time, a deputy was in a bank when it was robbed. The suspect fled, and the deputy put out a distress call over her radio with a description of the suspect, who was running toward the market.

Spence and Boatwright, on lunch break from guarding the Baltimore Circuit Courthouse, gave chase and ended up in the market. They noticed Sanchez, who resembled the description of the suspect. They stopped him and grabbed his arms, they said.

Other police and security officers who were chasing the suspected bank robber converged around Sanchez and forced him to the floor, Spence said.

The attack sparked outrage among leaders in the Hispanic community, who met with members of the Sheriff's Department and demanded action.

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